After a day of way too much strawberry ice cream I needed a meal that was ridiculously, obviously healthy; there is no way this salad could be misconstrued as anything but colourfully nutritious. I have cucumber, radishes, strawberries, yellow sweet peppers, grated carrot, avocado, romaine lettuce, edamame, parsley, pepitas, chia seeds, and black sesame seeds. I made a salad dressing out of dark sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced garlic, 1 tsp. brown sugar, and grated ginger (basically, raiding my pantry for ingredients that would work well together). I dressed the salad and let it sit for about 10 minutes to get the crunch out of the chia seeds and because, well, I just happen to like my salad on the soggier side.
Some people make soup when they want to clean out their crisper drawer, I make salad rolls. I want to stress that unless you make salad rolls regularly in great quantity (a friend referred to his time working as a caterer and confessed that salad rolls still give him nightmares) they are a little bit tedious to make at any great speed or quantity, which is why I tend to make salad rolls when I can chat with friends or family on the phone or when I can approach the process with a zen-like quietness without feeling hurried. Although I occasionally use shredded chicken for protein in salad rolls my absolute favourite is the nuttiness of extra firm tofu, lightly poached and fork mashed with soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds. Essentially you are going for a layer of green, a layer of starch, a layer of protein, and a layer of crunchy vegetables; working within these parameters the possibilities and combinations are near endless and depend entirely on what your tastes are and what you have in your fridge.
crunchy salad rolls:
Rice vermicelli noodles, cooked and tossed with a scant amount of dark roasted sesame oil
Extra firm tofu, poached for a minute or two in simmering water and lightly mashed with soy sauce and roasted sesame seeds
Bok choy, greens thinly sliced and tossed with torn Thai basil and cilantro
Assorted vegetables such as cucumber, scallions, sweet peppers, avocados, cabbage, and shredded carrots.
1. Have all of your salad roll fillings set out before you begin. In a shallow pie dish full of hot water soften the rice paper sheet by sheet, working as you go one sheet of rice paper at a time.
2. Lay the rice paper flat on a cutting board or mat and layer very small amounts of the bok choy greens, noodles, tofu, and assorted vegetables on the bottom third of the rice paper. Roll the paper up and away from you, tucking the ends in as though you were rolling up a tortilla, make sure the rice paper is sealed shut.
3. As you work, keep the salad rolls from drying out by sitting them on a slightly dampened tea towel, if making the salad rolls ahead of time tightly wrap the rolls in cling film and refrigerate. Serve the salad rolls with sweet and sour dipping sauce with the knowledge that your fridge has been thoroughly cleaned out.
sweet and sour dipping sauce:
Juice of 1 lime
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 Tbsp. sambal oelek
3 Tbsp. water
Whisk all ingredients together until thoroughly combined, serve with salad rolls.
Badly Drawn Boy seems like a permanent fixture in my personal autumn landscape, I have so many memories of walking home from classes at night in university listening to this song – to the point that I can almost smell the frigid air and scattered skeletons of leaves that pad the sidewalks during late fall in Ontario. This song has always seemed witchy and mysterious to me, another tie in to the and indigo blue afternoons and darkening days of mid-November.
Badly Drawn Boy – Cause a Rockslide
Sometimes when I cook for myself I like to make something elaborate and time-consuming, something really special that I love to prepare and eat. And sometimes I like to make something like this sesame cucumber and avocado salad, an incredibly easy dinner and delicious dinner for one paired with some crusty bread and a cold beer. This recipe was taken from this amazing article from The New York Times that I was sent a few years ago – Mark Bittman’s 101 Simple Salads for the Season – I use this article all the time, each of the recipes are perfect as they are or as a jumping off point (and Bittman provides lots of suggestions.) This cucumber and avocado salad becomes an easy all-in-one meal if served over room temperature white rice dressed lightly with rice vinegar. The salad I made tonight contains untoasted sesame seeds based entirely on the fact that I didn’t feel like turning on my stove but feel free to toast some up if you are feeling ambitious. Finally, make sure that you use an avocado that is perfectly ripe and by that I mean firm yet still soft, the clay green colour uniform and unblemished by dark brown spots.
sesame cucumber and avocado salad:
1 avocado, cut into a medium-sized dice
2 Tbsp. of low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. of rice vinegar
1 tsp. honey or white sugar
About a tablespoon of sesame seeds (scale back or go crazy, this is only a general guide)
1.Very carefully toss the cucumber and avocado. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar or honey. Drizzle over the cucumber and avocado and top with the sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Do you have music that feels really sacred to you? Music that transforms into something totally different if it’s just you listening, music that is so profoundly attached to you that it always feels like home when you put it on? Cat Power is like that for me (and Smog, but I’ll get into that another time.) As much as I appreciated and loved the women behind the Riot Grrrl movement I remember how ecstatic I was to find Cat Power, the best depressing music in the whole world. When I have the apartment to myself I will listen to Chan Marshall’s entire discography on repeat until someone comes home and snaps me out of the dreamy maudlin state I have fallen into (at this point you can usually find me lying on the floor while looking at the ceiling, attempting to gracefully drink red wine out of a coffee mug without pouring it all over myself.) This song has thunderstorm songs in it which makes it my all-time favourite song to listen to while partaking in the aforementioned lonely lady activities.
Cat Power – Say
Transitioning to a full-time work schedule after spending months daydreaming about said schedule when one is unemployed is difficult at best and absolutely exhausting at its worst. It’s not the content of my days but rather the adjustment of getting up at 7:00 in the morning and trying not to stay up past 10:00 at night. Needless to say, my weekday approach to cooking has moved from complicated to utilitarian and quick recipes such as this one provide a springboard for something memorable but very simple both in terms of preparation and ingredient selection. The tofu is simmered briefly in hot water and then kept warm until ready to serve; this might sound contrary to any other way you might have prepared tofu but as of right now it is my new favourite way to prepare it. I used asparagus the last time I made this for dinner (out of season but on sale), but you could use any vegetable or combination of that you like. Lastly, I would highly recommend you use low-sodium soy sauce in this recipe as I found the sauce too salty when I used a regular soy sauce.
sesame soy tofu
1 package of medium-soft tofu, drained and cubed
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted*
5 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 bunch of scallions, snipped finely with scissors halfway up the dark green part of the plant
1 tsp. of chili flakes (I like to add more if I’m the only one eating)
5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 lb. of asparagus, ends snapped off and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
2 tsp. canola oil (I think that peanut oil would be a good choice here because of its high smoke point, but I’m allergic to peanuts so this is all based on speculation)
1 cup of jasmine rice, cooked according to package directions
1. Place the tofu in a pot with just enough water to cover and bring to a simmer; turn the heat down to low and allow to sit for as long as you need while you prepare the sauce and asparagus.
2. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small mixing bowl and let rest while you cook the asparagus.
3. Heat the oil over high heat and stir fry the asparagus until bright green but still crunchy.
4. Mound the rice, tofu, and asparagus on a plate and generously drizzle with the sauce. Do not let the fact that this sauce is uncooked deter you because once you’ve made it you’ll want to put it on everything.
*To toast the sesame seeds spread them evenly across a frying pan over medium-high heat and watch carefully shaking every 30 seconds or so to prevent burning. The seeds will be done after a few minutes when they begin to emit an intense sesame scent and turn golden brown.
The Psychedelic Furs are so good to play really loudly while you’re cooking and trying to reimmerse yourself back into your own brain after a long period of sustained extroversion. I think this band has a really interesting stylistic evolution: post-punk, new wave, art rock, etc., etc. – listening to music that always sounds different is an invigorating antidote to an over-abundance of sameness. Besides, I like Richard Butler’s sunglasses in this video.
The Psychedelic Furs – Until She Comes